Coming Soon – Bessem’s Song

Bessem's Song by Sherri L. Lewis

About four and half years ago when I moved to Cameroon, I conceived a story. The pregnancy was long and at times overwhelming. The labor and delivery was difficult and painful, but Bessem’s Song, An Inspirational Short Story is now available for pre-order. My first short story inspired by my new life in Africa.

Here is a synopsis:

Achale Oben has a simple, happy life growing up in her Cameroonian village playing tabala and scizo, swimming in the Manyu River, and helping Mama and Papa on the farm. But when tragedy strikes the family, she and her sisters are packed up to go live with their aunt. Achale’s biggest concern goes from being first in her primary school class to protecting her sisters, Bessem and Baby Arrah from their abusive aunt and uncle. As Achale watches her fragile sister, Bessem, go from being a happy, singing child to an almost mute, fearful one, she’s willing to do anything to save her – even risk her own life. When she realizes that Baby Arrah is in danger, she has to make some decisions that no eleven year-old child should have to make. With all that they’ve suffered, Achale wonders whether she can trust God to protect them. And even if He can somehow save them from their troubles, will Achale ever again hear Bessem’s song?

Sherri’s Moving to Cameroon??? Finally an explanation…

So inquiring minds want to know…what in the world is Sherri talking about? One minute, she’s releasing her latest bestseller and publishing an anthology. The next moment, she’s putting her life’s belongings on a container sailing to Cameroon, West Africa. Has she lost her mind???
Let me explain. I’ve always dreamed about going to Africa as a missionary. I’ve dreamed of full-time ministry, music, dance, writing and expressing the Kingdom of God through the arts. But I got stuck, working a job to pay the mortgage, but not really living the life I was created to live.
Finally, last year, I quit my job and decided to dance into destiny. Literally… I got an email from a young woman in Cameroon saying she’d read my 2nd novel, Dance Into Destiny and loved it. She said the youth group in the book reminded her of her youth ministry there. We traded emails back and forth and chatted almost daily. She reminded me so much of myself at her age, it was like reaching back in time and talking to myself. I started waking up in the middle of the night, praying for Cameroon and couldn’t understand why. I found out that her youth group had been praying for me to come speak at their anniversary. I agreed to come visit…on the condition that they would stop praying so I could get some sleep.
On my first trip to Africa ever in July 2009, I was greeted by an amazing group of about 75 young people. They loved to sing, dance, worship, pray, do theatre, and express the Kingdom artistically. They were true God chasers, hungry to go deeper in God. I went to teach them, but I learned so much more than I could ever teach. I know I’ll never be the same. It wasn’t long before I just had to back to see my beloved adopted children – November 2009. I can’t get it out of my system. There’s nothing better than teaching and pouring out on people who are hungry for more of God. These kids soak up everything like a sponge and go after God 100%.
After much prayer and seeking God, I got permission to take the school of ministry I’ve just completed to Buea, Cameroon. I leave in July – gotta preach for a couple of weeks in Nigeria first – and then the school will start in September. I’ll come home for Christmas and then return to complete the term in January. After that, God only knows.

You can check out the website at www.bassmcameroon.com!

My First Shower

So who knew that even taking a bath was going to be a different experience? First, I had to use the bathroom. I was led out into the courtyard up some concrete stairs to the…latrine. Now when me and Mimi had been chatting, she told me there was a toilet in the house. As she led me to the latrine, she said the toilet was in the process of being installed and she had thought it would be in by the time I arrived.

(For my African friends reading, bear with me on the bathroom explanation. You’d be surprised at the things so important to us Americans. Toileting is a big one!  )

Long story short, you squat over a hole to use the bathroom. And you have to use a flashlight to do so. Imagine coordinating all that. Flashlight, toilet paper, squatting and not missing the hole (splashing is NOT cool). And friends, if you ever find yourself in this situation, resist the urge to shine the flashlight down the hole! (I know what you’re thinking, but surprisingly, it doesn’t smell like you would think. They pour some chemical down the hole to prevent that.) And when you come out, don’t ask questions like, “what do you do when the hole fills up?” You’ll get a brief stare, followed by something muttered in pidgin under the breath equivalent to “silly American…”

So on to the shower. I was led to the “bathroom” which is just that – a room with a drain in the floor. No stall, no curtain… I was given a big bucket of nicely warmed water (I now can appreciate the extra time they took to boil water for me to take a bath. On my second trip, we were running late a few times and didn’t have time to put the pot on the stove. Can I just say there were screams coming from the bathroom when I poured the cold water over myself???)

As I looked at the bucket, all I could think was, how am I gonna keep from splashing water all over the floor? So I took a bird bath, being as careful as possible to make sure as much as the water stayed in the bucket as possible.

When I came out of the bathroom, I apologized for having accidentally splashed some water on the floor. When Mimi came back from examining the bathroom, she asked me how I could have possibly taken a shower when the bucket was still full. There was no way I could be clean. I was completely confused as to why she thought I would splash water all over the clean bathroom floor. She gave me another strange look and explained that what I was supposed to do was pour some water over myself, lather up, and then pour water over myself to rinse off. I was supposed to splash water all over the floor. Mimi asked, “why do you think they call it a bathroom?” She gave me yet another a strange look and muttered something about how I didn’t know how to take a bath. I was feeling the cultural differences already.

Cameroon – My Life Has Forever Changed!

Cameroon – My Life Has Forever Changed

The other night, a friend asked me about my trips to Cameroon. His eyes were huge with excitement as he asked to see pictures. He said, “I want you to take me there. By the time you finish telling me about it and showing me the pictures, I want to feel like I just came back.” So many have asked about my trips and I say they were amazing and life-changing, but I don’t think I’ve adequately shared my experience in Cameroon.

On the first trip, my dad almost died while I was gone so I cut my trip short and obviously didn’t have time to blog when I got back. When I returned from the second trip, he went back into the hospital for surgery to fix everything that had gone wrong during the summer. So I never really got to share. I’m gonna go back and try to recreate as much as I can with pictures and videos and stories.

A little background. I first met my “Cameroonian daughter” – Genevieve Souma – by email. Mimi (as she’s called) had read my book, Dance Into Destiny, and sent me one of the sweetest, most heartfelt messages I think I’ve ever gotten from any reader – and I’ve gotten some great ones. We started emailing back and forth about our dreams and destinies and she told me a lot about her youth group, Youth Aglow, that the youth group in Dance Into Destiny reminded her of. We ended up chatting on a regular basis on Facebook and developed one of those divine connections that only God Himself can set up. She sent me copies of Youth Aglow’s music CD and music video (YA Squad) and I realized we had similar interests in expressing the Kingdom through music and the arts.

Soon, I began waking up at crazy hours, praying for Cameroon and for Youth Aglow. For some strange reason, I wanted to visit. When I told Mimi about it, she admitted that she and her youth group were praying that I would come over for their 7th anniversary celebration. I agreed to visit on the condition that they stop praying so I could get some sleep.  I’ve come to learn since then that when these kids pray, heaven moves. But more of that later…

I ended up going to Cameroon for the first time in July 2009. In retrospect, it’s one of the craziest things I’ve EVER done – getting on a plane – by myself – to go to Africa to meet someone I met online. On the way to the airport, my mom said she’d been unable to find anything about Youth Aglow online. She expressed her fears about it being a scam and me being kidnapped. Needless to say, that made my 24+ hours of travel a little scary. I ended up praying silly prayers like, “God if this is a scam and they’re gonna kidnap me, then let the flight from Switzerland be cancelled.” As if God would let me go to Africa and get kidnapped.

When I arrived in Douala, the airport was overwhelming. People were speaking in French and everyone was trying to sell me something. I hate the airport in Cameroon. The so-called porters try to scam you for money to get your bags through customs. When they hear the American accent, you can see the dollar signs in their eyes. In the midst of my angst, I heard my name being called. I looked up and saw the cocoa brown face from the computer screen from my facebook chats smiling down at me and instantly felt reassured that this was a destiny journey and that God was in control.

On our long bumpy 2 hour trip from Doula to Cameroon, Mimi gave me a tour and history lesson. The trip was a little hairy as we traveled over potholes the size of craters and had to avoid killing several “kamikaze” motorcyclists. Mimi explained that the motorcycles serve as taxis but they drive so crazy that not a week goes by where someone isn’t killed in an accident. We finally got out of the city onto the pitch black quiet road and I still wondered what lay ahead on my trip.

When I arrived in Buea, Cameroon, I was greeted by a beautiful group of young people crowded into Mimi’s living room. It was dimly lit and it was explained to me that they were experiencing, “low voltage” where they electricity levels in the city were low. I could hardly see the eager faces smiling back at me. Some of the leaders spoke about Youth Aglow and how grateful they were for my visit, and then the group sang a song that brought tears to my eyes. Then we enjoyed an awesome welcome feast they had prepared for me. They explained each dish and the only thing I recognized was the boiled plantains (I am a lover of Jamaican food – well all things Jamaican!) As we ate, I shared with them a little bit about my life’s journey and how I was pressing into purpose and destiny. I got to share with them as a group and then had some more intimate conversations with my new friends. As we talked that first evening, I knew God had divinely connected us and that something very special was about to happen. It was amazing how it felt like I had stepped into the pages of my book, Dance Into Destiny – Cameroonian style.

You can check out photos of me and my kids on Facebook. Add me as a friend!

Next up – my first trip to the bathroom and the shower. Promise not to laugh!!!

Selling My Soul – When Life Imitates Art

Selling My Soul – When Life Imitates Art

You know how they say art imitates life? Many authors, myself included, write books based on their life experiences. I’ve had an amazing thing to happen recently where life has imitated art. I wrote a book about a missionary returning from Africa before I ever set foot on the continent. I based her experiences on those of missionary friends I met in church. They shared their stories and I tried to recreate their experiences with re-entry – returning to America after being in another culture for a prolonged period of time.

Little did I know that in a little over a year, I would be traveling to Africa and experiencing that same thing. In re-reading the book after coming back, it’s almost scary how much of what I imagined the character would feel was exactly what I felt. Even scarier, the main character’s mother was sick when she returned from Africa. As I sat in the hospital with my father watching him cheat death last summer, I felt some of the same emotions I had written for my character. One of the procedures my dad had was exactly as I had described it in the book. That was really scary. And if this is a case of life imitating art, I hope I end up with the gloriously happy romantic ending. 

Of course, Selling My Soul isn’t so much about Trina’s return from Africa. After all, it is the sequel to My Soul Cries Out. So I HAD to answer some questions my readers felt I left them with. Like, what happened to Monica and Kevin? What happened to their friends Alaysia and Khalil and David and Nakia – did they get married? What happened to Trina – she just disappeared to Africa and fell off the face of the earth. And most importantly, what ever happened to Bishop Walker and those dirty deacons? Was justice ever served?

Of course you’ll have to read the book to get all the answers to those questions. You could read Selling My Soul without reading My Soul Cries Out first, but I have to say, you’d enjoy it more as a sequel. You really need to HATE Bishop Walker to get the full enjoyment out of Selling My Soul. 

You can pre-order your copy of Selling My Soul on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles’ websites. The book will hit the shelves on February 23, 2010. I hope you enjoy the story!

In addition to sharing my fictional account of a missionary returning from Africa, I want to share my real life account. Stay tuned to my blog (which I’m REALLY going to keep up with now – I promise!) to hear my stories and see pictures and videos of my two trips to Cameroon.